Ideas for better workshops

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I’ll get ideas for better workshops wherever I can find them. Here are some tips I gathered recently from a client of mine…

As a long-time conference and workshop presenter, I’ve learned several tricks over the years.

When I ask the participants at one of my talks to raise their hands in answer to a question, for example, I always raise my own hand as well. (No one ever wants to be first to do anything, so I’m helping break the ice.) I use PowerPoint slides filled with pictures rather than words. This is because I want to reinforce what I’m saying with a different channel (the visual one) rather than compete with it (spoken words fighting with written words.) Finally, instead of just speaking and instructing, I work in lots of exercises to give participants real-life hands-on experience.

But I learned a few new tricks this week from a client of mine who’d attended a workshop on fundraising. Here are some of the ideas that she liked best:

  • Participants had a chunk of Silly Putty sitting in front of them. Designed as a creativity-inspiring tool, the Silly Putty allowed them to do something with their hands while they were thinking.
  • All participants had to place their cell phones in a “babysitting box.” This ensured that no one was being distracted by email or texts during the presentation.
  • Whenever participants had to write, the moderator played a piece of music — the same music every time. This achieved two goals: first, it demonstrated that no one was supposed to be talking. Second, and more importantly, it also played a “conditioning” role. After hearing the music a few times, people started associating it with writing. In other words hearing the music made them want to write.

I loved all of these ideas and I’m going to be trying them myself in the very next presentation I offer.